The Impact of Specialty on Cases Performed During Hand Surgery Fellowship Training

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Abstract

Background:

Hand surgery fellowship programs in the United States are predominately sponsored by departments or divisions of orthopaedic surgery or plastic surgery. This study compares the operative experiences of hand surgery fellows graduating from orthopaedic or plastic surgery hand surgery fellowships.

Methods:

Operative case logs of 3 cohorts of hand surgery fellows graduating during the academic years of 2012-2013, 2013-2014, and 2014-2015 were analyzed. The median case volumes were compared by specialty via Mann-Whitney U tests. An arbitrary 1,000% change between the 90th and 10th percentiles of fellows was used as a threshold to highlight case categories with substantial variability.

Results:

In this study, 413 orthopaedic hand surgery fellows (87%) and 62 plastic surgery hand surgery fellows (13%) were included. Plastic surgery fellows reported more cases in the following categories: wound closure with graft; wound reconstruction with flap; vascular repair, reconstruction, replantation, or microvascular; closed treatment of fracture or dislocation; nerve injury; and congenital (p < 0.05). Orthopaedic surgery fellows reported more cases in the following categories: wound irrigation and debridement fasciotomy or wound preparation; hand reconstruction or releases; wrist reconstruction, releases, or arthrodesis; forearm, elbow, or shoulder reconstruction or releases; hand fractures, dislocation, or ligament injury; wrist fractures or dislocations; forearm and proximal fractures or dislocations; miscellaneous insertion or removal of devices; shoulder arthroscopy, elbow arthroscopy, and wrist arthroscopy; decompression of tendon sheath, synovectomy, or ganglions; nerve decompression; Dupuytren; and tumor or osteomyelitis (p < 0.05). Plastic surgery fellows reported substantial variability for 12 case categories (range, 1,024% to 2,880%). Orthopaedic surgery fellows reported substantial variability for 9 case categories (range, 1,110% to 9,700%).

Conclusions:

Orthopaedic and plastic hand surgery fellowships afford disparate operative experiences. Understanding these differences may help to align prospective trainees with future career goals and to guide discussions to better standardize hand surgery training.

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